The Information


Skinny Bundles Hit Their Weight Limit

In the battle to sign up consumers for low-priced streaming versions of cable TV, the streaming-only internet companies appear to be gaining on the traditional media firms.

The two biggest firms in the market, Dish Network’s Sling TV and AT&T’s DirecTV Now, each posted anemic growth for the December quarter. That followed several quarters of slowing growth for both. In contrast, the two newer firms in the market, Hulu with Live TV and Google’s YouTube TV, continued growing strongly, according to people familiar with their numbers and analyst estimates. (See above chart.) 


Google in Middle of Fight Over 5G Spectrum

A proposal by four satellite operators to sell wireless spectrum critical for new 5G technologies has run into opposition from Google and cable companies such as Charter Communications. The opponents complain the plan would let the satellite firms sell the spectrum privately, thereby allowing them to shape the competitive landscape for next generation wireless services.  

Instead, Google and the cable operators want the Federal Communications Commission to sell the spectrum, valued at $15 billion or more. That could broaden the field of bidders and reduce the chance that one company ends up with all of the spectrum. The dispute, which is likely to end up in court, highlights a race among a broad range of media and tech companies to play a role in development of 5G wireless technology. 5G is expected to be used for the internet of things, self-driving cars as well as for wireless video and broadband as an alternative to cable service.


The Investor Rebuilding Kleiner Perkins

A few years ago, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the storied venture capital firm known for blockbuster bets on Amazon and Google, was in a funk. The firm had lost some of its luster by missing out on early investments in social media, while its reputation was battered by a sexual discrimination lawsuit filed by a former partner.

To lead a turnaround, Kleiner in 2017 recruited Mamoon Hamid, a star Silicon Valley investor known for his early backing of Slack, Yammer, Box and other companies. At 40 years old, Mr. Hamid was a toddler when John Doerr, Kleiner’s chairman and iconic partner, started his career at the firm in 1980. Now Mr. Hamid is the partner Kleiner is counting on to carry on Mr. Doerr’s rainmaking legacy, according to many of the firm’s limited partners and other investors.  

“I needed someone who was completely unassailable in the community, someone who is a proven venture capitalist,” said Kleiner Perkins partner Ted Schlein, who played a key role in recruiting Mr. Hamid to the firm. “I could not afford to screw that up.”


All Grown Up, Kubernetes Morphs Into a Computing Platform

Kubernetes, a tool that Google engineers created in 2014 to manage applications running across large numbers of machines, is becoming a kind of standard in enterprise computing, powering everything from mobile banking to smart home applications. Now the question is how much further Kubernetes can go.

“I do think [Kubernetes] is capable of running almost any kind of workload,” Jason McGee, chief technology officer and vice president of IBM Cloud, said Wednesday during a panel discussion hosted by The Information and IBM at IBM's Think conference in San Francisco.


Risky Business

Everybody paid attention in October when the SEC settled cases with two crypto companies found to have violated securities laws, putting the industry on notice that most tokens were going to be treated as securities. But months later, those companies have yet to register their tokens with the SEC, raising the question of when (or if) their investors will get the refunds they are owed.

The outcome could have far-reaching implications: Investors in hundreds of initial coin offerings that regulators have said are governed by securities rules are wondering whether their funds will be returned. One of the companies that settled, Airfox, received an extension today to register its tokens and begin the refund process. In the meantime, Congress is working on legislation that could overhaul those regulations and exempt tokens from securities laws.

Another issue we’re watching closely is how personnel moves shake out at some of the top crypto companies. Executives flocked to the industry after the boom, but it remains to be seen whether they will stay. Below, we report on a few more departures from Coinbase, which has lost a number of executives in recent months.


Streaming Video’s New Math

As several of the big entertainment companies move toward the launch of Netflix-like video streaming services, the big questions for investors are how big a business will they build—and how much money will they lose along the way.

To get a sense of that, we dug into some numbers. Consider this: To cover what we estimate could be the programming costs for its new Disney+ streaming service, Disney would need roughly 37 million subscribers paying $9 a month globally. Netflix took more than three years to get to that many streaming subscribers.


MGM Looks for Epix Partner, Two Years After Buying Channel for $1 Billion

Movie studio MGM Holdings is looking for a strategic partner for its Epix cable channel, to help grow the business and gain access to more programming  and distribution, according to two people familiar with the situation. The search comes less than two years after MGM paid nearly a billion dollars for control of Epix.

MGM Chairman Kevin Ulrich is working informally with boutique investment bank LionTree in the effort. The studio has approached a couple of entertainment companies to gauge their interest in partnering with Epix, which is likely to mean taking a stake in the channel, the people said. A person close to MGM emphasized the company wants to retain control of Epix.


Self-Driving Shuttles Advance in Cities, Raising Jobs Concerns

Thomas Cute, a former bus driver, will be among the first to take a ride this spring in Providence, R.I.’s new, self-driving shuttle. He and other local bus drivers will survey how the small, driverless bus makes its way from the downtown train station, over the Woonasquatucket River, to a neighborhood where few public buses currently run. But one question that’s likely to be on their minds: Will this technology take their jobs?

The company running the vehicle is May Mobility, a 2-year-old startup that just raised $22 million at an undisclosed valuation in a Series A funding round led by Millennium Technology Value Partners and Cyrus Capital Partners, The Information has learned. It plans to use the money to hire more engineers to increase reliability, expand its fleet and grow shuttle services from two to at least four U.S. cities in the coming months, an executive told The Information last week.


The Pressure on the News Industry Is a Symptom of Disempowerment

If you study the history of news, one thing becomes very clear: we are not living through as extraordinary a period in the history of news as some people think.

Time and time again, over hundreds of years, the same pattern has played out. There is a period where a small group of elites pay enormous amounts of money for the quality information they need to operate. Then the information business becomes popularized and the reach is expanded. That pushes the news business towards sensationalization, eroding the quality of information in favor of entertainment. And then the elites who need good information to make important financial or political decisions retreat and start high-price, high-quality news sources with limited distribution. Then the cycle repeats.


These Startups Want to Reshape 5G Devices, Disease Treatment, Startup Credit and the Power Grid

As we approach the mid-point of 2019’s first quarter, the startup funding environment remains promising, many investors say. After all, multibillion-dollar funds such as Sequoia’s still have plenty to invest even after last year’s record pace. Nearly $131 billion in venture capital was deployed in private companies worldwide in 2018, industry data shows, beating the previous record set in 2000.

Sure, there are reasons for worry, including a volatile stock market, questions about the economy and gathering momentum for tech regulation. But after weathering 2018, there’s reason to expect venture capital funding of startups will hold its own this year.


Modest Conversations: Income Share Agreements

In late December Erik Torenberg and I sat down to talk about the future of human capital and the long history of Income Share Agreements. I am glad we delayed releasing this episode, because the last few months have only made the topic of ISAs more relevant.  

Lambda School’s much-discussed January series B financing, and several other startups have brought the topic more and more directly into the light. You can be sure there will be many more companies working through ISAs in the coming years.


Is There Room for All These Venture Capitalists?

This week, I asked three venture capitalists to describe what kind of startups have been hitting them up for funding lately. They each said something similar: “startups? These days, we see more pitches from new funds who want us to invest in them.”

For those of you who don’t follow venture capital closely, the boom of the last several years has attracted a flood of capital and made starting a venture fund—once the purview of grizzled tech veterans with deep checkbooks and deeper rolodexes—seem much easier.


Join The Information Reporting Team!

More than any other companies, Facebook and Alphabet are changing the face of the internet. From driving advances in artificial intelligence to cornering the market for digital advertising, the two are the most important companies in Silicon Valley. The Information is looking for an enterprising reporter to join our team and cover the two companies.

This is a challenging assignment with enormous opportunity for the right person. Facebook and Alphabet each dominate news coverage of technology. Both companies have their tentacles in a variety of industries aside from their core businesses, ranging from self-driving cars to messaging services to video, health care and the future of cities. The Facebook/Alphabet reporter at The Information can set the agenda for what’s truly important at the companies. That requires deep sourcing and a need to not be distracted by day to day noise that so often constitutes coverage of the companies.

At the Information, we don’t rewrite press releases. We only write stories with exclusive information. That liberates reporters from the need to sit in the office, churning out commodity news. It means reporters can get out and meet sources, pursuing what they think is important. 

Candidates should have experience in covering tech, with a demonstrated ability to break news and write in-depth features that go beyond the plain-vanilla reporting that dominates the news media today.

Compensation is competitive and includes aggressive bonuses. We offer a range of benefits, including health insurance, three weeks paid vacation (starting), generous family leave, a 401(K), a technology budget and a gym stipend.

If you are interested, send a resume, cover letter and clips to jobs@theinformation.com.


The Information’s 411 — A Bumbling Ofo

Juro describes the rise and fall of Chinese bike rental company Ofo. Jessica speaks to IBM researcher Noam Slonim about the company's AI debate master in a preview of the IBM Think conference next week.


Join The Information as a Senior Reporter!

The tech industry is at a crossroads. The forces responsible for supercharged growth at companies like Apple, Alphabet and Facebook are starting to fade. iPhone sales are no longer growing. Tech companies’ use of consumer data to sell digital advertising is being scrutinized like never before. The combined impact of these factors guarantees that the next couple of years will be full of tumult at big tech companies. Long-powerful top executives could be replaced. Regulatory pressure could lead to companies getting broken up.

The Information is looking for a senior reporter to chronicle the epic shifts underway and the impact on businesses and consumers. The ideal person would be a reporter with 10 to 15 years of experience covering big companies, preferably in tech, who can write about the companies’ fundamental business challenges as well as the human drama behind it. We want someone who can step back from the day to day and look ahead, helping our readers anticipate what will happen at the big companies.

This is an ideal assignment for the right person. Now five years old, The Information has established itself as the go-to source for hard-hitting, in-depth coverage of the technology industry, from exposing sexual harassment in venture capital, chronicling the demise of over-hyped startups, tracking the global expansion of ride-hailing and uncovering the limitations of self-driving cars. The successful candidate will work alongside reporters and editors with long experience covering business, who joined from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg and elsewhere.

We don’t rewrite press releases or waste time matching other outlets’ stories. Our aim is to write stories with exclusive information. That liberates reporters from the need to sit in the office, churning out commodity news. It means reporters can get out and meet sources, pursuing what they think is important.

Compensation is competitive and includes aggressive bonuses. We offer a range of benefits, including health insurance, three weeks paid vacation (starting), generous family leave, a 401(K), a technology budget and a gym stipend.

If you are interested, send a resume, cover letter and clips to jobs@theinformation.com.


AMC CEO Warns That Big Media Deals Won’t Work

Under pressure from Netflix and Amazon, the entertainment industry is slowly consolidating. But one of the smallest of the publicly traded entertainment firms, AMC Networks, is resisting the trend. And in an interview, AMC CEO Josh Sapan warns that some of the big deals underway may prove to be more challenging than anticipated and may need to be undone.

“I think there has been a rush at the moment toward big, and I think there is a default notion that big covers sins and that big provides insurance,” he said. “I don’t believe that to be the case, and sometimes big in the past worked, but notably it hasn’t worked and has had to be deconstructed.” He cited cultural differences as among the problems that big mergers sometimes encounter.


Amazon Adapts to New India Rules, But Uncertainty Remains

Days ago, top sellers on Amazon’s India website removed hundreds of thousands of product listings from the site to comply with new government regulations in the country, in what seemed like a perilous development. But on Thursday, after Amazon scrambled to restructure its relationship with one of those top sellers, some of those products were again for sale on its India site.

That doesn’t mean Amazon is in the clear in India, a country regarded as one of the most promising growth opportunities for American internet retailers but one that has shown a growing determination to thwart their domination of the market. Recent reports from Morgan Stanley predicted the new government rules could deepen the long-term operating losses for Amazon and Walmart from their Indian internet businesses, while giving a boost to domestic e-commerce competitors.  


After the Crypto Boom, Investors Proceed With Caution

These days, when Randy Saaf goes into meetings with potential investors and customers to talk about his blockchain-based games startup, he plays down the cryptocurrency aspect of his company. What just 12 months ago would have been a major selling point has become more of a liability.

After a surge of investor interest in cryptocurrencies in 2017 led to a big crop of startups at robust valuations, the sector cooled dramatically last year. Funding for crypto startups fell 75%—from $3.2 billion in January to $800 million in December, according to Autonomous NEXT—as cryptocurrency prices plunged more than 80% from record highs. Stumbles by high-profile startups including Bitmain and ConsenSys, which laid off hundreds late last year, as well as high-profile cryptocurrency hacks, further undermined investor confidence.


SMB Account Executive at The Information

San Francisco—The Information is looking for a strong sales professional with a track record of closing deals and consistently beating quotas. As our first sales hire, you will be at the front line of growth at a fast-paced and rapidly expanding company.

You are expected to manage a full sales cycle by qualifying prospects, closing warm leads, and developing our end-to-end pipeline. You must have several years of SaaS selling experience and be looking to take your career to the next level.

This is an especially exciting opportunity for a hungry sales and business development professional as we’ve recently launched our corporate subscription offering. As our first sales hire, you’ll have plenty of greenfield to develop and conquer as you focus on growing corporate subscriptions for companies with between 10-999 employees.




Next Steps

If this sounds interesting, please send a resume and cover letter to jobs@theinformation.com.


Facebook’s Crypto Shopping List

Happy Wednesday. Last week’s piece on legislation that Rep. Darren Soto’s office is developing, which would exempt two classes of crypto assets from being securities, drew a lot of feedback. Some applauded the effort, but others reserved judgment for later. Joe Grundfest, a former SEC director who now teaches at Stanford, wrote in: “The technology doesn’t fit into neat buckets. Instruments might evolve that fit in two or more of these categories.”

The big news in crypto this week is that Facebook has acquired its first blockchain startup, Chainspace. The startup was developing a blockchain with “planetary scale,” according to its website. That’s a must-have for any company, like Facebook, looking to roll out a cryptocurrency for billions of people. Below: more details on Facebook’s acquisition hunt, plus context on a $100 million fundraising by the crypto exchange Kraken.


Page created: Fri, Feb 15, 2019 - 09:00 PM GMT